This spring semester will be one that is long remembered by students at UNI, Iowa State University and the University of Iowa.
All three schools decided in an unprecedented move to shift classes online for at least two weeks after Spring Break ends as a precaution in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak.
UNI Provost Jim Wohlpart says they examined a lot of things and the safety of everyone was the bottom line. “And so that was…the primary factor that we weighed into the decision. We had conversations with the Board of Regents and the other two campuses and weighed all of the possibilities and the factors of what is happening on our campuses and decided this was the best move at this time with spring break coming up next week,” Wohlpart says.
He says with 90 percent of students coming from Iowa, most go home for spring break. “Our campus is still open, the residence halls are still open and dining will still be open — but since most of our students — almost all of our students do leave over spring break — we do expect that most of them will stay home. Some of them may need to come back for work,” he says. He says each class is different, but they are confident the classes can be conducted online.
Wohlpart says they are working to provide the faculty with the resources they need to conduct the classes. He says, for example, faculty who teach music courses can do lessons with students online and make sure students are still learning. Wohlpart says some classes easily lend themselves to online instruction. “In a much larger lecture hall lecture hall where it largely lectures using PowerPoint, a faculty member can go in and record the lecture over the PowerPoint — and then be available various ways online, ” according to Wohlpart.
The plan right now is to continue online courses through April 6th. Wohlpart says the only certainty is they don’t know for certain what is going to happen. “This is evolving day-by-day and we have no way of knowing where we will be in a week, two weeks or three weeks. So, we will have to keep monitoring it,” he says.
ISU Provost Jonathan Wickert says it was not an easy decision to make. “We know that many of our students will be disappointed by this decision — but it is important to note that this change is disruptive not only to students and their families — but also to our faculty and staff here on campus,” Wickert says.
Wickert says he has no doubt about what they are doing. “We are very confident that we are making the very best decision and the right decision for Iowa State, but putting the safety of our students, faculty, and staff as our overriding priority,” Wickert says. ISU student health director, Erin Baldwin, has this advice for students.
“Students are strongly encouraged to avoid infection by remaining away from campus from March 23rd through April 3rd,” according to Baldwin. “Depending on the status and spread of Covid-19 at that time, the period of online classes could be extended.”
U-I senior vice president for finance and operations, Rod Lehnertz, says they had to work through ways to help students and the patients and staff at the university hospitals. Lehnertz says the hospitals are also a good resource. “We again want to reiterate how fortunate we are to have a world-class premier medical center on our campus with some of the foremost experts in epidemiology, microbiology, and immunology,” Lehnertz says. “We have a plan, we are executing it and we continue to adapt as necessary, with the news that we gain.”
Spring graduation is one thing the representatives of each school were asked about. Lehnertz had this to say about the possibility graduation would be canceled. “That is one event, we have many events on campus. We are amassing and have amassed a list of events that gather larger groups of people. And we are the same way assessing those because all of those events require planning, travel, coordination, and logistics,” he says. Lehnertz says they will continue monitoring the situation to be sure they have enough time to let everyone know who will attend the events if there is a change in plans.
Each school has set up a webpage where you can go to find specific information about coronavirus issues.